French Riots Hit 274 Towns, Spread Abroad

AP, Nov. 7

PARIS—Rioting by French youths spread to 274 towns overnight and a man hurt in the violence died of his wounds, the first fatality in 11 days of unrest that has shocked the country, police said Monday.

As urban unrest spread to neighboring Belgium and possibly Germany, the French government faced growing criticism for its inability to stop the violence, despite massive police deployment and continued calls for calm.

Raincy and Bobigny, two riot-hit towns in suburban Paris, said they were preparing to enforce a curfew.

On Sunday night, vandals burned more than 1,400 vehicles, and clashes around the country left 36 police injured, setting a new high for overnight arson and violence since rioting started last month after two youths were electrocuted as they hid from police, national police chief Michel Gaudin told a news conference.

Australia, Austria, Britain, Germany and Hungary advised their citizens to exercise care in France, joining the United States and Russia in warning tourists to stay away from violence-hit areas.

Alain Rahmouni, a national police spokesman, said the man who was beaten died at a hospital from injuries sustained in the attack, but he had no immediate details of the victim’s age or his attacker.

The man was caught by surprise by an attacker after rushing out of his apartment building to put out a trash can fire, Rahmouni said.

Five cars torched in Brussels

Apparent copycat attacks spread outside France for the first time, with five cars torched outside Brussels’ main train station, police in the Belgian capital said.

Berlin police were investigating whether the overnight burning of five cars in a working-class district of the German capital early Monday was a copycat crime.

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Chirac said unemployment runs as high as 40 percent in some suburban neighborhoods, four times the national rate of just under 10 percent, Vike-Freiberga said.

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Among the injured police, 10 were hurt by youths firing fine-grain birdshot in a late-night clash in the southern Paris suburb of Grigny, national police spokesman Patrick Hamon said. Two were hospitalized, but the injuries were not considered life-threatening. One was wounded in the neck, the other in the legs.

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PARIS—With every night of violent rioting that scars France’s rundown suburbs, more and more French say their distinctive model of integration, based on the revolutionary ideal of equality for all, has failed.

But President Jacques Chirac and his conservative allies are unlikely to join the critics, as that would mean accepting the approach France considers superior is no better than integration policies abroad.

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Inspired by the “liberty, equality, fraternity” motto of its 1789 revolution, the French republic officially rejects any consideration of race, creed or color that could undermine national unity.

It asks immigrants to integrate by forgetting their roots and becoming like the French, rather than the less ambitious view in countries such as Britain and the United States that newcomers should learn English, obey the law and pay taxes.

Crises abroad such as the London bombings by Islamist militants, or the sight of poor, black Americans stranded in flooded New Orleans, are often occasions for smug comment in France on the dangers of admitting that ethnic minorities exist.

But many suburbs built for immigrants in the 1960s and 1970s have become ghettos little different from slums in other countries. Unemployment there runs two to three times higher than the 10 percent national average and residents—many of them Muslim—complain of discrimination.

“We now see the consequences of 30 years of social and ethnic segregation,” said Manuel Valls, the young mayor of the troubled suburb of Evry, south of Paris. “What I call a ‘territorial apartheid’ just gets worse and worse.

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In a scene that spoke volumes, National Assembly Speaker Jean-Louis Debre—a close Chirac ally and passionate defender of the republican model—was shocked and almost speechless on Sunday as he surveyed riot damage in Evreux, where he is mayor.

“A hundred people have smashed everything and strewn desolation,” he commented. “Well, they don’t form part of our universe.”

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